EU makes no new moves in annual Zimbabwe sanctions review, but slams govt’s ‘persisting’ rights violations

President Mnangagwa and EU Ambassador Timo Olkkonen: EU criticises govt over lack of reforms

The European Union has announced no fresh measures in its annual review of sanctions on Zimbabwe, but criticised President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government over “persisting” human rights violations and broken promises on reforms.

The EU first imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe after then President Robert Mugabe deported its chief election observer in 2002. Since then, the EU has gradually rolled back its measures, leaving only an arms embargo against the Zimbabwe Defence Industries. Travel bans and asset freezes on Grace Mugabe, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga and Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Philip Valerio Sibanda remain suspended.

In a statement on its sanctions position issued Friday, the EU said there had been no movement on reforms to warrant an easing of measures.

“The lack of substantial reforms has allowed the continued deterioration of the humanitarian, economic and social situation. Violations of human rights and limitations on the democratic space are also persisting,” says the EU.

“The EU is especially concerned about a proliferation of arrests and prosecutions of journalists, opposition actors and individuals expressing dissenting views, and the use by high-level officials of speech that could be interpreted as incitement to violence,” it added.

The EU said it would maintain the sanctions on ZDI, once an influential manufacturer of small arms owned by the Zimbabwean military. The EU says the embargo continues “taking into account the situation in Zimbabwe, including the continuing need to investigate the role of security force actors in human rights abuses”.

Sanctions: EU vs UK

The EU says it may review its measures depending on the human rights conditions in Zimbabwe.

“Accelerated political and economic reforms, respect for human rights, boosting trust in the rule of law and tackling corruption would contribute significantly to investor confidence, build a steady business climate and facilitate Zimbabwe in taking full advantage of the opportunities the EPA provides,” the EU says.

The bloc’s standstill position on Zimbabwe contrasts with the hardening position recently taken by the British government, which announced its own first set of sanctions on Zimbabwe since BREXIT.

Citing “egregious human rights violations”, Britain on February 1 imposed a ban and an asset freeze against Owen Ncube, Minister for State Security, Isaac Moyo, Director General of the Central Intelligence Organisation, Police Commissioner Godwin Matanga, and Anselem Sanyatwe, the former commander of the Presidential Guard and now an ambassador.

Zimbabwe opened formal talks with the EU in 2019, which was the first time since the EU withdrew direct support to the country and imposed sanctions. The talks pointed to thawing relations, but relations have since cooled over the lack of progress on reforms and the EU’s demands for rights violators to be punished.